In a visually driven and noisy world it can be easy to forget the simple sense of touch. When was the last time you ran your hand along the rough branches of a tree or your own skin; when did you last experience the smoothness of a fabric, or the soft tickle of walking barefoot on the grass? When did you last squelch a piece of food between your fingers like a baby, just to see what it felt like? Touch and curiosity go hand in hand, they connect us to our world before a syllable has been spoken, before the idea of something rises up, before an attitude or opinion has been committed to.
Knowing someone without or before words is powerful. Some years ago, I went to a movement and expression workshop and one of the exercises we took part in was to ‘talk’ with our bodies to our partner but remain in silence. It began with our feet, no contact at this point, simply moving with and around each other. It was strange at first but also fluid and playful, actively listening and reacting with your body to another person is a beautiful process. Once we’d introduced most of our major limbs and parts to each other we continued with the next part which was to maintain contact with one part of your partner’s body, for example your shoulders or your back, whilst moving around the space.
Having one point of contact with my partner and hearing them through this, through the pressure or lack of it, through balance or disequilibrium we learnt to move around the room together. I was able to feel from my partner, humour, shyness, confidence, playfulness and hesitation. After half an hour, I was sure that we were friends. In fact, we were deeply intimate friends and yet we hadn’t spoken a word to each other. I had ‘felt’ her; seen beauty, vulnerability, worry, frustration, motivation and many other emotions that led to a deep connection and trust in a short time.
This has always stuck with me because later when we spoke to each other in the break, which felt a little strange adding the stilted ability of speaking after such an intense exercise, I met another side of my partner – the public side. The filtered, processed, presented ego side that we all project out into the world. I’m not sure if we had met outside of these circumstance that we would have bonded in the same way. Knowing her through touch allowed me an insight into the unfiltered, inner self that was happy to be open and seen, free to play and connect in that moment without any baggage.
The way we touch or allow ourselves to touch or be touched speaks of this; of things that can’t be spoken; of access to our most inner self and feelings. When we hug someone tightly with all our loving intention, they can feel us and our emotion purely and fully. With honest contact there is no filter.
Touch in its positive sense heals our arguments, consoles our loved ones, comforts us, soothes us, arouses us and teaches us about the moment we’re in.
Touch tells stories without words.